Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren often being someone a child can talk to in confidence. They can provide a practical and emotional resource for the child and their parent. If the child’s parents separate or divorce this can severely impact on the whole family including the grandparents.
It is frequently asked what are grandparents rights when the child’s parents separate or divorce?
Sadly, grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren.
What then can a grandparent do to retain a relationship with their grandchildren?
- Try to maintain contact and communication with the parents. Whilst easier said than done avoid taking sides and try to remain as neutral as possible. Offer support to both parents and explain you wish to continue to be part of the grandchildren’s lives. Try to arrange grandparent time rather than grandparent plus mum/dad time. If this does not work, try to maintain appropriate indirect contact by sending age appropriate messages to the grandchildren whether by phone/message or sending cards and letters.
- If a child’s parent is already in Court proceedings trying to maintain a relationship with their child, it is often better that his or her parents (i.e. the child’s grandparents) do not get involved as if the parent’s application succeeds the grandparent’s relationship with the child may resume.
- Attempt Family Mediation. Approach a mediator for a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). The mediator will approach the parents and invite them to mediate. If they refuse or if mediation fails, then you can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order.
- Family Court Application
Only a person with parental responsibility for example a parent, step parent or guardian can apply for a Child Arrangements Order.Grandparent’s rights are limited but they can apply for permission (leave) to apply for contact to a grandchild. In deciding whether to grant leave the Court will consider:
- The grandparent’s connection and relationship to the child.
- The nature of the application for contact (exactly what is being sought).
- Whether the application might disrupt the child’s life to the extent of being harmful to the child’s wellbeing in any way.
The Application is made on a Form C100 with a statement addressing the above factors.
If leave is opposed by one of the parents, there will be a hearing. The grandparent will need to persuade the Court they have a meaningful and ongoing relationship with the grandchild which significantly benefits their life.
If leave is granted then the grandparent can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. The Court may direct a Cafcass Officer prepare a report on the issue of contact and there will then be a further hearing.
The Court will always consider what is in the child’s best interests. The child’s welfare is paramount. The Court may have to weigh up whether a grandparent continuing contact will have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships, but it is only in extreme circumstances a Court will refuse contact to grandchildren.
If you would like advice regarding your individual circumstances, please contact our family team on 01689 887887.